Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Most Holy Hame of Jesus

Today is the feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, a feast which originates in the middle ages, was extended to the universal Church by Pope Innocent XIII in 1721, changed to a movable date by Pope Pius X, discarded in 1969 and, happily, reinstated on this date in 2000.

The Pope, King Philip II and the Doge of Venice join in the adoration of the Holy Name
El Greco

Image: fisheaters.com

There is a history of devotion to the Holy Name here, which amongst other things points out the extent to which it developed in medieval England from St Anselm (d.1109) onwards, and an older article from the 1913 Catholic Encyclopaedia here. To this one might add the use of the Name as a foundation title for Archbishop Rotherham's Jesus College at Rotherham and Bishop John Alcock of Ely's college of the same name at Cambridge from the last quarter of the fifteenth century. This was of course at the end of the century which had seen the extensive promotion of the devotion by St Bernardino and St John Capistrano on the continent.

There is a history of the feast itself and the various days on which it has been celebrated here.

Here is St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1152) on the Most Holy Name of Jesus:
The sweet Name of Jesus produces in us holy thoughts, fills the soul with noble sentiments, strengthens virtue, begets good works, and nourishes pure affections. All spiritual food leaves the soul dry, if it contain not that penetrating oil, the Name Jesus. When you take your pen, write the Name Jesus: if you write books, let the Name of Jesus be contained in them, else they will possess no charm or attraction for me; you may speak, or you may reply, but if the Name of Jesus sounds not from your lips, you are without unction and without charm. Jesus is honey in our mouth, light in our eyes, a flame in our heart. This name is the cure for all diseases of the soul. Are you troubled? think but of Jesus, speak but the Name of Jesus, the clouds disperse, and peace descends anew from heaven. Have you fallen into sin? so that you fear death? invoke the Name of Jesus, and you will soon feel life returning. No obduracy of the soul, no weakness, no coldness of heart can resist this holy Name; there is no heart which will not soften and open in tears at this holy name. Are you surrounded by sorrow and danger? invoke the Name of Jesus, and your fears will vanish.

Never yet was human being in urgent need, and on the point of perishing, who invoked this help-giving Name, and was not powerfully sustained. It was given us for the cure of all our ills; to soften the impetuosity of anger, to quench the fire of concupiscence, to conquer pride, to mitigate the pain of our wounds, to overcome the thirst of avarice, to quiet sensual passions, and the desires of low pleasures. If we call to our minds the Name of Jesus, it brings before us His most meek and humble heart, and gives us a new knowledge of His most loving and tender compassion. The Name of Jesus is the purest, and holiest, the noblest and most indulgent of names, the Name of all blessings and of all virtues; it is the Name of the God-Man, of sanctity itself. To think of Jesus is to think of the great, infinite God Who, having given us His life as an example, has also bestowed the necessary understanding, energy and assistance to enable us to follow and imitate Him, in our thoughts, inclinations, words and actions. If the Name of Jesus reaches the depths of our heart, it leaves heavenly virtue there. We say, therefore, with our great master, St. Paul the Apostle: If any man love not our Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema.
To St Bernard also is attributed this hymn, which was adopted as the Office hymn for today when Bernardine dei Busti composed the propers of the feast:

Jesu, dúlcis memória,
Dans véra córdis gáudia:
Sed super mel et ómnia
Ejus dúlcis præséntia.

Nil cánitur suávius,
Nil audítur jucúndius,
Nil cogitátur dúlcius,
Quam Jésus Déi Fílius.

Jésu, spes pæniténtibus,
Quan píus es peténtibus!
Quan bónus te quæréntibus!
Sed quid inveniéntibus?

Nec língua válet dícere,
Nec líttera exprímere:
Expértus pótest crédere,
Quid sit Jésum dilígere.

Sis, Jésu, nóstrum gáudium,
Qui est futúrus praémium
Sit nóstra in te glória,
Per cúncta semper saécula.

Jesus, the very thought of Thee
With sweetness fills the breast!
Yet sweeter far Thy face to see
And in Thy Presence rest.

No voice can sing, no heart can frame,
Nor can the memory find,
A sweeter sound than Jesus' Name,
The Savior of mankind.

O hope of every contrite heart!
O joy of all the meek!
To those who fall, how kind Thou art!
How good to those who seek!

But what to those who find? Ah! this
Nor tongue nor pen can show
The love of Jesus, what it is,
None but His loved ones know.

Jesus! our only hope be Thou,
As Thou our prize shalt be;
In Thee be all our glory now,
And through eternity. Amen.

There is also this hymn dating from the fifteenth, or possibly the eighteenth, century translated by J.M.Neale in 1851, and published in Hymns Ancient and Modern in 1860. Of the various tunes to which it can be sung I think Oriel is the best known, and, of course, the most suitable:

To the Name of our salvation,
laud and honor let us pay,
which for many a generation
hid in God's foreknowledge lay;
but with holy exultation
we may sing aloud today.

Jesus is the Name we treasure;
Name beyond what words can tell;
Name of gladness, Name of pleasure,
ear and heart delighting well;
Name of sweetness, passing measure,
saving us from sin and hell.

'Tis the Name for adoration,
Name for songs of victory,
Name for holy meditation
in this vale of misery,
Name for joyful veneration
by the citizens on high.

'Tis the Name that whoso preacheth
speaks like music to the ear;
who in prayer this Name beseecheth
sweetest comfort findeth near;
who its perfect wisdom reacheth,
heavenly joy possesseth here.

Jesus is the Name exalted
over every other name;
in this Name, whene'er assaulted,
we can put our foes to shame;
strength to them who else had halted,
eyes to blind, and feet to lame.

Therefore we in love adoring,
this most blessèd Name revere;
holy Jesus, thee imploring
so to write it in us here,
that hereafter, heavenward soaring,
we may sing with angels there.

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